Race: Hoka Bandera 100K
Runner: Ricke Harris
Race Date: 01/09/2021
Location: Bandera, TX
Strava Activity Link: https://strava.app.link/Lm0OWzDcedb
3 Bests – What aspects of the race did you like the most?
- COURSE – The beautiful vistas and challenging terrain. Two loops with a lot of rocks and steep climbs with sotol cactus plants growing in the most inconvenient places make this two-loop course a very rewarding sucker-punch you’ll want to do again!
- SUPPORT/ORGANIZATION – The race volunteers are all super awesome. I wanted to hug the guy making pancakes and bacon – but that would have been awkward and, you know…the virus. Even with the challenge of racing in a pandemic, this event was super-organized.
- VALUE – Tejas Trails runs an early-bird special if you can get on to their mailing list. Travelling to Texas and planning/paying for the supporting logistics can run up the bills. But having a chance for a deep discount on your race registration is a big help. Even at full price, though, you won’t be disappointed.
Not so much – Aspects of the race that didn’t do it for you
Okay, this is not really a negative this year. But, the topic of aid station water was a negative for me at this race last year so I’ll address it here. There is no water available at the Hill Country State Natural Area, where the race is ran. The RD has to bring in all his water for the aid stations and this is provided by a race sponsor (Crazy Water). This is an interesting spring water with minerals and (I think) electrolytes that are supposedly naturally-occurring when it is pumped out of the ground (I’m not sure about anything I just said and I hope I don’t get in trouble for using a band name here 😉 – I suggest you Google it). But, last year it was a negative because it tasted weird when all I wanted was just cold water. But, it didn’t bother me at all this year. What made the difference? Simply put, I expected it. I didn’t mix my own Tailwind so sweet and took more of the Tailwind offered at the aid station. I think because I both expected it AND I didn’t have the juxtaposition of an overly sweet beverage in my second water bottle, I really didn’t notice it that much. In fact, I went through a full bottle of it in between each aid station with no issues. So, just consider this if you run the race.
Weird factor – What’s the weirdest thing about this race?
Dude… a bunch of people are running two 50K loops through rough terrain with plants that leave hundreds of tiny paper cuts on your legs and are loving it. THAT’S WEIRD!
Highlights of your race – What did you do well and enjoy about your race in particular?
- PR!!!! Thanks Coach Erin!!!!
- A conservative first loop.
- Hiked any climb that I had to raise my head above normal running posture to see the top.
- Held back on the descents to save my quads. Didn’t bomb the downhills. Okay, I did bomb one of them… sorry coach… but you DID tell me to “have fun”! 😉
- Considering my nutrition and resupply needs before arriving at the aid station so I could get in and out with very little wasted time. I went a little long at a few aid stations later on, but most stops were well below my planned aid station turnaround time. The average time at aid stations was still faster than my plan.
- Compared to last year, didn’t have to power hike until much later in the race. Focusing on good form and taking it bit by bit kept the speed of advance better than last year.
Lessons for others – Share your pro-tips on the race to help the next runner
- Of course, don’t forget to SMILE, even when you don’t feel like it. Your face will tell your brain what to think even when your brain thinks its down in the dumps.
- Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to tweak it mid race for the right reasons. I like to have an A, B, and C goal. A – aiming for the moon. B – what I think I can do. C – what I feel would define, for me, not wimping out. A plan never survives first contact with the enemy, but you need to have something to help shape the point from which you deviate when you have to problem-solve an issue or to let you know when you’re either smoking the course or about to run the wheels off. Don’t let “the plan” get in the way of having fun, though.
- Set your watch to beep every mile and take a drink when it does.
Lessons you learned that will help you next time around
Unlike last year, I didn’t include salt tabs as part of my nutrition plan. I honestly don’t know why I blew that off – maybe because I didn’t use them as much in training. In the second loop, I noticed that I only wanted Pringles and pickles at the aid stations. It occurred to me that I needed salt (duh). The temp at the start was in the 30’s, so dehydration was insidious. Next year, I’m packing salt tabs.
Most important course specific knowledge to know about the race
Very hilly and rocky. Consider shoes with a rock plate or enough stack height to protect your feet. Make sure your shoes perform well in descents; jamming your toes around in too large of a toe box will leave your toenails behind. First year I ran, I used Altra Lone Peaks. Still love them and they did great, but the two box was just a bit sloppy for me (and my toenails). This year, I ran in Altra Timps. Also love them and they did great as well. No rock plate and the tread is a little less aggressive than my Lone Peaks, but the shoe grabbed my foot well while still giving my toes room to splay. No blisters and I still have my toenails. Everyone’s foot is different; this is just my own experience.
Aesthetics – Is it a pretty course?
Beautiful course!!! Don’t forget to stop and enjoy the views (unless, of course, you’re shooting for a WSER golden ticket or are on the cusp of a cut-off!
Difficulty – Is Bandera 100k a tough course?
Organized and well run – Did it feel like a well-oiled machine or were they flying by the seat of their pants?
Competition – Is there a strong field?
It’s a Hoka WSER golden ticket race and any finishers less than 17 hours earn a lottery entry to the WSER. So, there is plenty of competition if you’re looking for it. But there are plenty of first-time 100K-ers as well (even a few first time ultra runners!).
Logistics – Does it require a special handshake, registration a year in advance, hotels all booked? Give us the low down on the nuts and bolts of making the race happen.
All the information is available on the Tejas Trails website. I didn’t have trouble finding a hotel within a month of the race. Last year I stayed in Hondo (not much there but closer to the race). This year I stayed NW of San Antonio in Boerne (much more there but plan on nearly an hour to the start). There are hotels in Bandera, which is the closest you can get without camping; Bandera is a small town venue. There is also primitive tent camping and RV camping at the start.
Aid Stations – Standard fare or anything special to know about the aid stations in terms of what’s available or when?
Listed on the website. Tailwind and Crazy Water for hydration. Typical fare including cookies, chips, candy. Most aid stations also had pickles. A few had S-caps. Every other had either broth, ramen, quesadillas, etc. (or several).
Weather and typical race conditions
Last two years were cool (30s/40s) at the start and 50s during the day. Put a shell on after sunset and that worked for me.
Gear – Did you need anything special or is there anything you’d recommend for the next runner?
If you’re a hiker tend to spend longer on a course like me, learn to use poles. They may save your face on some of the descents after dark when you’re tired.
Spectators – Is this a friendly course for your friends?
Most aid stations have road access for crew and friends.
How’s the Swag?
Quality shirt and NICE buckle!
The Overall Score – How many stars do you give this race and do you recommend that others run it?
5 out of 5 stars
Looking to run your first ultra? Check out our 7 Steps Towards Running your First Ultra!